An authentic Quaker lace tablecloth is a hard-to-find item today. However, because of their beauty and durability, these tablecloths are still sought after, despite the fact that they are no longer being manufactured.
History of the Quaker Lace Tablecloth
Handmade lace used to be a thing of luxury that only the wealthy could afford in their homes. The invention of machine made lace affordable to middle class homes. In 1889, the three sons of a successful English carpet weaver named John Bromley started a textile business called Bromley manufacturing. The three brothers imported lace looms from Nottingham, England to pursue their vision of producing machine made lace textiles. In 1894, the company was renamed Lehigh Manufacturing, after the street name in Philadelphia where the factory was located. A second factory was opened, a short time later, just a little further up the same street. In 1911, the business was renamed Quaker Lace Company.
The first lace textile that Quaker Lace produced was a lace curtain. As the popularity of machine made lace grew, Quaker Lace began looking for other products to make. In 1932, the company produced their first lace tablecloth. However, after World War II, the interest in lace products took a sharp decline. In response, Quaker Lace stopped production of their other lace products but continued to make lace tablecloths.
Quaker Lace Patterns
The most popular pattern for Quaker Lace tablecloths is called the White House. The weight of lace is considered an indicator of its quality. The weight is calculated by the yarn count per inch. Quaker Lace's White House pattern has the heaviest weight. The name was inspired from the lace tablecloth that was used during the Eisenhower administration.
The next highest quality pattern is called Gardenia. This floral pattern is thicker than most of the other Quaker lace patterns. Another floral pattern is called Rose Rhapsody.
Another popular pattern for Quaker Lace is called Religious. This lace pattern consists of Christian symbols such as praying hands, churches, Bibles and crosses.
These elegant lace tablecloths not only look beautiful for a formal dining table setting, they also look amazing on other types of furniture as a decorative home accent.
The Demise of Quaker Lace Company
Quaker Lace found success in the early 1900's because of the public's interest in lace products and the company's ability to make fashionable lace products affordable to middle class families. Unfortunately, changes in the textile industry and the declining market for lace products resulted in the first of many transitions for the company. In 1987, the factory at 4th and Lehigh ceased production of machine made lace on the Nottingham looms but continued to bleach, dye, cut and package the lace products, which were now being manufactured in Lionville, Pennsylvania and Winthrop, Maine. However, after several leading retail department stores which carried Quaker Lace products closed, the company finally had to declare bankruptcy in 1992.
A company by the name of Lorraine Linens bought the rights to the Quaker Lace name and patterns and attempted to continue the legacy of Quaker Lace products until it too had to file for bankruptcy in 2007.
Where to Find Quaker Lace Today
It is still possible to purchase a Quaker Lace tablecloth. It will take a little more looking and a bit more patience, however, these beautiful, durable tablecloths are worth the hunt if you can find one that has been well cared for. Although a lace tablecloth looks very fragile, Quaker Lace developed a chemical process that allows their tablecloths to withstand many launderings while still holding their shape. Also, machine made lace is very durable. Depending on the age of the tablecloth, many are considered vintage or antique. Others are considered authentic reproductions. You can start looking by visiting the following websites:
Regularly check the listings on sites like Ebay for vintage or antique lace tablecloths, as they will be a great resource. Another good resource for private sellers offering vintage items is Worthpoint.
Offline resources for these tablecloths could include yard sales, estate sales, thrift stores and flea markets.